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R.T. Rybak endorses local foods, clean water economy

R.T. Rybak

MONTEVIDEO -- Those promoting a local foods and sustainable, agricultural economy as the way to clean water and a healthy landscape in the Upper Minnesota River Valley have a partner in the urban center of Minneapolis.

"We are part of two, big grassroots efforts that are about to meet in the center,'' Mayor R. T. Rybak told a crowd of nearly 300 at the annual meeting for Clean Up our River Environment in Montevideo on Feb. 12.

Rybank applauded the efforts taking place in rural Minnesota. "The land is a mirror. It reflects back the values of those who love on top of it,'' he said, adding: "I have to say that the land that you live on looks back and smiles, you do wonderful things but you have to keep up the work.''

He pointed to efforts in Minneapolis as well to promote a local foods economy. He cited examples ranging from "Home Grown Minneapolis'' which teaches young people how to raise and prepare their own foods to school lunch programs that feature foods from Minnesota farms.

Rybak said Minnesota needs to "reconnect'' and redevelop the farm-to-town markets that existed when the state was first settled.

"We don't need to be an agricultural state that imports more than 80 percent of its food,'' said Rybank. "We only need to reconnect what is grown here and consumed here.''

Rybak also call for a second, rural electrification campaign with a focus on energy independence for rural Minnesota.

He questioned the current direction of developing large wind farms and costly infrastructure for the purpose of carrying that power to the urban center.

"I think frankly we have it backwards. I think what we should be doing is saying that if the rural economy in this state is challenged -- and we have tremendous energy resources here -- what we should do first is make sure that Greater Minnesota is energy independent.''

The mayor said Minnesota needs "an intentional, second phase of a rural electrification system that really brings locally-based energy to every part of Greater Minnesota.''

The way to attract businesses from urban areas to Greater Minnesota is to develop low-cost energy supplies in rural communities, not by shipping the energy to urban centers, he explained. "One of the reasons an entrepreneur will start a business here is that energy should be far less expensive, or even free,'' he said.

He told his audience that promoting their values in a locally-based, sustainable economy is not a matter of holding on to a historical remnant. "They are absolutely the core to where we are moving in the future.''

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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